‘Text neck’ results in injuries for students, others


High school athletes could be more at risk for in-game injuries because of activities outside of the game, a report in the US said.

A national chain of physical therapy clinics reports that more teens than ever are complaining of “text neck,” back and neck pain that can only be explained by the strain on the body caused by constant viewing of hand-held technology.

“I am shocked by how many patients come in complaining of neck pain,” said Anne Bierman, a physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy in suburban Chicago.

Bierman said in the past the majority of patients with neck and shoulder were adults who slouch when sitting at their computers a day. Now she’s seeing more teens with the condition.

Long periods of looking down can be stressful on the body, whether staring at a cellphone, laptop or tablet.

On average, for every 10 degrees a person tilts the head downward puts 10 pounds of pressure on the spine, Bierman said.

Her information echoes research published in 2014 in the National Library of Medicine that warns the extra weight — sometimes up to 60 pounds—on the cervical spine caused by looking down can lead to wear and tear on the vertebrae and degeneration that may require surgery.

Athletes are vulnerable because “text neck” causes a loss of muscle strength.

Bierman, a former college athlete, said weak shoulder muscles can result in poor performance, more injuries and longer recovery times.

Weak muscles also put more pressure on shoulder joints, limit normal range of motion and cause pain when swimming, throwing a baseball or softball, striking a football stance, spiking a volleyball or performing other sports activities.

“We’re dealing with a lot more high school athletes who’ve had surgeries,” said Bierman, who played soccer at St. Louis University and is a board-certified clinical specialist in sports physical therapy.

Because her office is adjacent to Neuqua Valley High School, Bierman said she treats many Neuqua Valley students, athletes and nonathletes alike.

The problem of “text neck” could become even more prevalent and extend into more of the nonathlete student population as more teachers turn to technology to supplement their lesson plans.

In Naperville School District 203, every junior high and high school student will be issued Chromebooks this year for use in the classroom and for homework.

Indian Prairie School District 204 also will distribute Chromebooks to its middle school students this fall and will pilot laptops at the high school level in preparation to issue them next year.

Neither district has a policy limiting the amount of time tech is used during the day.

Bierman urged all students, whenever possible, to consider elevating computer screens to eye level, using a keyboard that keep elbow at one’s side, and taking breaks every 30 minutes to perform reversal of posture exercises.

She said between classes, students might want to stretch their neck and shoulder muscles during passing periods.

Long-term effects from “text neck” can lead to chronic pain and surgical intervention later in life, she said.


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